There is little doubt that social media has not only altered language, but it has also accelerated the rate at which the way we use language is changing. Increasingly, abbreviations are becoming words, as in LOL, and nouns are becoming verbs: "Will you friend me?" What's interesting is that we are not just witnessing a shift in language, but the fact that we are helping to create it. Of course, semantic change is nothing new; when was the last time you used the word "gay" in its original context to mean joyous, or a merry, light mood? And of course there are a few common words such as SCUBA and AWOL that originated as acronyms (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus and absent without official leave, respectively). However, some things are getting out of hand.
When, for example, did "sure" become a bad word? Recently, I texted the simple affirmation "sure" as a rushed response to an invitation or suggested social event someone had extended to me. Thinking my response was a clear and appropriate one, I was surprised, confused and yes a bit annoyed, by the onslaught of negative comments that followed. "Well you don't have to if you don't want to." "Do you have a better idea?" "Sorry I suggested something!" Admittedly, there has always been the problem of misreading the tone of a text or an email message, thus the introduction of emoticons, which helped with clarification. However, when a word by definition means "Free from doubt as to the reliability, character or action of something," shouldn't that be enough? "Sure" is a nice simple way to say all that.
The other day, I was driving home with my children. We had a nice time visiting friends who were renting a cabin at Lake Waramaug State Park in Connecticut. When I heard a text come through my phone, I asked my daughter if she would read it to me. She read, "Would you like to stop at Wild Ginger if we have time and pick up some food to bring to the concert tonight?" I asked my daughter to simply text the reply: "Sure, I'm driving now." My daughter instantly looked up at me and said, "Wow, don't sound so excited!" Amazed, I sat there wondering how my quick affirmation that lacked doubt was once again being perceived as a negative, a shrugged off indifference. My response simply meant to indicate 1. It was a good idea. 2. I couldn't talk about it at that moment. "Sure" may lack the excitement of GREAT or TERRIFIC, but once again I'm left to wonder why it crosses the line to negativity? Who knows? Maybe the slang definition of "cool" would have been more warmly received. If there is one thing that I am sure of, it is this: There is enough negativity in the world, and with all the reasons and excuses people can come up with to say no to something, when someone says "sure," embrace the positive.
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